Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

Early SIG data looks promising, Duncan says
So can the biggest federal investment—and tightest federal strings ever—actually make a difference for the nation’s lowest-performing schools? That’s the $3.5 billion question behind the School Improvement Grant program, which got supersized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And so far, the very, very preliminary answer seems to be that the program holds promise. The department has begun crunching data for about 700 of the roughly 850 schools that entered the program back in the 2010-11 school year (the only year for which results are available). In all, 43 states are part of that very early, in-no-way-the-final-word-on-the-program analysis. And? About one in four schools saw double-digit increases in math proficiency. And about one in five schools posted double digit increases in reading proficiency. In all, during the first year of the program, the percent of students who were proficient in math or reading went up in roughly 60 percent of SIG schools, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the crowd assembled at the Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington. (Politics K-12)

Schools Report: Failing to prepare students hurts national security, prosperity
Thirty years ago, a Reagan administration report warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.” The report, “A Nation at Risk,” tied that mediocrity to the alleged failure of America’s schools. Fast forward to 2012, and the story hasn’t changed, former New York City schools chief Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in a report provided to The Huffington Post slated to be released Tuesday. “The sad fact is that the rising tide of mediocrity is not something that belongs in history books,” said the report produced by a Council on Foreign Relations task force they co-chaired. The report, called the U.S. Education Reform and National Security report, argues for treating education as a national-security issue, noting that deficiencies in areas like foreign languages hold back America’s capacity to produce soldiers, diplomats and spies. It calls for increased standards, accountability and school choice — charter schools and vouchers — to increase America’s international educational standing. (HuffPo)

Mitt Romney pledges to push back against teachers unions
Mitt Romney has pledged to push back against teachers unions as president. The former Massachusetts governor said on “Fox News Sunday,” “But the role I see that ought to remain in the president’s agenda with regards to education is to push back against the federal teachers unions.” He continued, “Those federal teachers unions have too much power, in some cases, they overwhelm the states, they overwhelm the local school districts. We have got to put the kids first and put these teachers unions behind.” Romney said he would not “necessarily” eliminate the Department of Education, but said that it may combined with agencies and that its “reach” into the states has to be “pulled back.” Romney also criticized teachers unions in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act. “I support the principle of having states test their kids … I did support No Child Left Behind and do support continuing to test our kids,” he said. “I want to know which school districts are succeeding and which ones are failing and where they are failing. I want there to be action taken to get the teacher unions out and to get the kids once again receiving the education they need.” (HuffPo)

New York: Mulgrew suggests loan forgiveness as a way to retain teachers
The president of New York City’s teachers’ union weighed in Monday on a mayoral proposal to offer loan forgiveness for new teachers, proposing that the program be targeted toward retaining experienced teachers. In a letter on Monday to Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, Michael Mulgrew, the union president, reminded city officials that any loan forgiveness program must be negotiated. But Mr. Mulgrew offered conditional support for the proposal, with the recommendation that it be used to keep experienced teachers in the system and discourage the kind of turnover that robs pupils of teachers with proven abilities. He also said he would support a program that spread the payments out over five years, providing teachers with an incentive to stay in the system. “In order to make sure the public’s money is well spent, the program should focus as much on retention as on recruiting,” Mr. Mulgrew wrote. He went on: “The point of such a program is not just to bring in recruits — it is to bring in candidates who will learn the craft of teaching and build a successful career in our schools.” (School Book)

Rhode Island: RI’s graduation rate “lagging”
A new report identifies Rhode Island as one of 10 states where high school graduation rates declined between 2002 and 2009. The study from the America’s Promise Alliance is part of a push to increase graduation rates around the country. The researchers found that overall, 75 percent of American students completed high school on time in 2009, an increase of 3.5 percentage points from 2001. Leaders in the study include Wisconsin, with an impressive 90 percent graduation rate, and Vermont, which wasn’t far  behind. Massachusetts and New Hampshire also earned positive mentions for making moderate improvements in their high school completion rates. In Rhode Island, the report suggests that graduation numbers declined slightly, by 0.4 percentage points . Rhode Island was one of 10 states where graduation rates fell and one of 26 states that saw little or no progress in graduation rates as measured by the researchers. (Elisabeth Harrison)

New Jersey: Newark school marked for closure will remain open
An elementary school once slated to close will stay open, and pre-kindergarten programs will be expanded, Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson said today in unveiling the final plan for reorganizing district schools. In addition, six underachieving schools will closed in June and eight new K-8 schools will open in existing buildings next fall, she said. Anderson was joined by a dozen officials who supported the reform, including Mayor Cory Booker, principals, local pastors and school advisory board members. “We need nothing less than seriously breakthrough results,” she said to about 75 audience members at a news conference at Quitman Street School, in a second-floor classroom. Anderson said the eight new schools dubbed “Renew Schools,” will be in the South and Central Wards to serve students from closing schools. Those schools will have longer school days, parent outreach and support, possible merit-based pay for staff and principals will have more say in choosing teachers, she said. (Star-Ledger)

North Carolina: NC gov wants more education funds from lawmakers
Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue on Monday called on Republican legislative leaders to work together with her to repair spending cuts in public education and prevent even deeper holes for local school districts this fall. But Perdue did little to encourage teamwork from GOP lawmakers who control the General Assembly, labeling them and their actions “extreme” and sticking to her proposal to raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a penny as the solution. Republicans have called that tax idea dead on arrival when it’s officially presented in her budget proposal for next year. The governor, starting two weeks of public appearances to drum up support for more public school funding, said lawmakers can’t ignore the end of $258 million in federal grant money that local school districts used to hire more than 5,400 school personnel this year. (Ed Week)


Hopes and fears for parent trigger laws
As many as 20 states have considered enacting parent trigger laws, which would let parents who are dissatisfied with the way a school is being run, turn it into a charter, replace the staff, or even shut it down, if 51 percent of the school’s families agree. The laws — which have been passed in various forms in California, Connecticut, Mississippi and Texas — have generated controversy and even inspired a movie to be released this fall. Do these laws give parents the first real power over their children’s education? Or do they put public schools in private hands and impede real improvements? (Room for Debate)


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